Different Types of Potatoes For the Garden.
There are many different types of potatoes. Learn about early season (or earlies), maincrop, determinate and indeterminate potatoes. (or is that a myth??) 🙂
Early Season and Main Crop Potatoes.
There are probably a hundred different types of potatoes with many names. They come in all flavors, shapes, and sizes. From fingerlings that tend to be small and skinny, to baking potatoes that are many times bigger.
These all fall into 2 (well 3 technically) categories. These are categorized by when to plant and how long it takes to harvest.
Early Season Potatoes (or Earlies)
Early potatoes are planted and mature the soonest. There are actually 2 different types of early season potatoes as well. This category can be further clarified by ‘first early’ and ‘second early’.
- First early are also called ‘new’ potatoes. These can take only 10-12 weeks to mature. and you can be harvesting in mid-summer rather than needing to wait until fall. They are often cooked whole with the skins on.
- Second early potatoes are just a few weeks behind in harvesting. These could be considered mid-season potatoes.
Note- Any potato can actually be picked and eaten when young and small, and are often called ‘new’ potatoes. But the early season categories are varieties that are grown specifically to be harvested early.
Main Crop Potatoes
Then there are maincrop potatoes. Sometimes called late season. These take the longest to mature, around 16-22 weeks. These are bigger potatoes with a thicker skin that is more appealing peeled for many people.
They are great for
- baked potatoes,
- mashed potatoes and
- do well in storage.
You’ll harvest main crop potatoes in August or later but before the frost hits.
How do you know what type of potato plant you have?
The best way to know what type of potato you are growing is to check the labels or ask the grower. I did not find a way to determine what category a potato falls in by just looking at it. Size is not always an indicator.
Another way to divide different types of potatoes: Determinate vs Indeterminate Potatoes.
Determinate or Indeterminate is just another way to categorize potatoes. I had never heard of potatoes being determinate or not. I know tomatoes can be determinate or indeterminate. But potatoes? That’s new to me. So I did some research. 🙂
So this one is a bit controversial. There are two schools of thought.
- Some say: Yes there are both determinate and indeterminate potatoes.
- Some say: No that’s ridiculous.
Both parties insist they are right.
Apparently, this is a hotly debated topic.
- Some say yes there are indeterminate potatoes. More potatoes grow along the stem if you keep covering the stem up as the plant grows. This is also called ‘hilling’.
- Some say no, it doesn’t exist. Potatoes simply grow in one layer at the base of the plant. Hilling is just to keep the potato tubers out of the sunlight.
Let’s break down what the terms mean.
- Determinate just means that the potatoes have tubers (the potato) that grow just in one layer where you plant the potato. You’ll want to hill these potatoes but just to keep the tubers covered and away from the sun. Hilling is just pulling dirt up around the potato plant to keep the tubers covered. A single hilling or maybe two is all that is needed and sometimes not even that if you don’t have any exposed tubers.
- Indeterminate means that this type of potato will grow more potatoes as you bury the plant. You’ll sow your seed potato and cover it in about 4 inches of soil. When the plant grows up to about 6 inches or so you’ll ‘hill’ the row.
This means pulling some earth around the plant leaving a few inches of leaves showing out the top. The potato will give more tubers in multiple layers along the covered stem. Continue hilling as the plant grows. The more hill, the more potatoes.
I’m a bit doubtful of the indeterminate label. Maybe a bit of experimenting will change my mind. Who knows!?
Have you heard of potato towers?
Potato towers are a method of planting and growing potatoes vertically. It can be done in several ways.
Potato Tower-type 1
One method involves planting within a border. As the potato grows you hill your potato repeatedly. Each time leaving only the top of the plant visible. The tower can be made of tires, wood, fencing, even in a container. Use anything to hold your dirt up as you hill your potatoes.
I’ve tried this method and I’ve never had luck with this type of potato tower. Maybe I just had the wrong potato type? It would make sense that if you want to plant a ‘potato tower’ you’ll want to be sure you are using indeterminate seed potatoes. Otherwise, it’s just not going to work. Hmmmm might be time for a garden experiment!
Potato Tower-type 2
There are other types of potato towers that don’t assume the potatoes grow along the stem. In these towers, you’ll use straw, soil, and a wire cage to plant your potatoes in layers up the side of the tower. So you have multiple seed potatoes in multiple layers. I have not tried this method but I’m game to give it a go!
What camp are you in?
If you have an opinion on different types of potatoes or determinate or indeterminate varieties, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.
I gotta admit I’m in the skeptical camp.
In the meantime, as I’m planning my garden this year… I may just have to see if I can find some potatoes labeled indeterminate and see if I can get more potatoes by hilling more and growing up. Have you ever found potatoes labeled ‘indeterminate’?
You can find more information on how to grow potatoes here. Everything from planting, growing, and harvesting potatoes.